A man stands before us whose body is riddled with scars and is broken down with the years of a hard life. Not hard because immorality reigned within his life, but hard because people did not like what he had to say. It is because of his words that he bears those scars and that his body is so quickly wearing down and wasting away. This man was
- Beaten five times by his own countrymen for a total of 195 lashings.
- Beaten by Greeks or Romans three times with rods (what we might refer to as cane), and there were no restrictions upon the lashing they could administer.
- Stoned because the message he presented cut the listeners to the heart, and yet he survived.
- Shipwrecked three times and spent an entire day and night in the Mediterranean (cold waters, mind you).
- There were times he went hungry, did not have the proper clothing
- He feared for his life because of robbers or even his own countrymen, and the list could go on and on and on.
This man’s name was Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ. The events listed here are just a few that he, himself, records in 2 Corinthians 11:24-28.
All of these things happened to Paul and yet it is he who writes in 2 Corinthians 4:16, “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.”
Who would know this better than Paul? Having suffered all of those things, this man is able to write concerning renewing the inward man rather than focusing upon the outward or physical man or body.
- How many of us would have continued to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ after one beating, much less eight?!
- How many of us would have picked our broken bodies up after having been hit with stone after stone, no doubt breaking bone after bone, and continued to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
- How many of us would dare go hungry or lack proper clothing in winter months just so that we could preach and teach others about our Lord and Savior?
These questions are hard to answer because of the lives of privilege we live here in this country. We know nothing of having to deal with these things! Yet, 2 Corinthians 4:16 applies to us just the same. If we indeed renew our inward man daily, if these situations ever do arise, we will be much better prepared to meet them and suffer through them.
Outward vs. Inward
So, what exactly does it mean that, “though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day?” The outward man refers simply to the physical body. It is a simple fact of life that our bodies wear out with age. Some bodies wear out quicker than others as is the case with Paul because of all the mistreatment his body received. There is nothing we can do to stop our bodies from slowly wearing out or dying. However, Paul gives us hope in that we are able to renew our inward man or spiritual man day by day. While our physical bodies may wear out, our spiritual bodies should be growing stronger every day. How else was Paul able to continue his work in taking the Gospel to the world? His physical body was no doubt crying out for mercy, for a break, and yet he continued on; not because of what his physical body felt it could not do but because of what the inward man knew it could and must do! Where did Paul find the strength?!
Focus on the Inward
Paul had the strength to continue on because of that inward man. He strove every day to strengthen that inward man so that he could push on. How did he do it? This writer is mindful of Psalm 1:1-3, which states, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” Notice that this righteous man described by the psalmist finds his delight in the laws of the Lord. His delight is not in man’s wisdom or man’s laws but in the law of the Lord! It is upon that law that he meditates day and night. That is something that is hard for us to fathom at times, that the Law of the Lord, the Bible should be ALWAYS upon our minds. There are situations that develop around us every day that should cause us to reflect upon the Word of God for at least a few moments at a time. Notice also that a man that focuses upon the spiritual in such a way is described like a tree planted by the rivers of water. This means that a man that strives to renew his inward man day by day, his roots run deep and he will not be easily uprooted! So if the day comes that you or I are beaten for preaching the truth, we will be able to bear it and continue preaching the truth!
There is much to learn of renewing our inward man and not near enough space to write about it. Dear friend, focus upon renewing the inward man and stop worrying so much about the physical! Yes, it’s good to exercise and be healthy, but wouldn’t you rather present a healthy spiritual body before God and Christ? Strive each day to strengthen your inward man!